Ryan Andresen, who turned 18 on Monday, was denied his Eagle Scout award. (Andresen family)
[Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET]
Ryan Andresen may have been shunned by the Boy Scouts, but not by scores of strangers who've stepped up to pledge their support over his plight.
The California teen made headlines around the world last week after his scoutmaster refused to approve his Eagle Scout award because Ryan is gay.
Since then, more than 350,000 people have signed an online petition urging the leaders of Troop 212 to ignore the Scouts' anti-gay policy and award Ryan the organization's highest honor.
"I'm just totally and completely blown away and amazed," said Ryan, who will appear on the "Ellen" TV talk show this Thursday. "I can't believe it. I really want to thank everyone for showing their support. It means so much to me."
His supporters include many former Scouts who say they plan to pledge their own coveted Eagle pins to Ryan.
"In my mind he's earned it simply by refusing to be anything other than who he is," Andrew Lanham wrote in an email to Yahoo News. "As an Eagle Scout, I'm appalled by the BSA's continuing bigotry. It sounds to me like Ryan is already one of my fellow Eagles, even if the organization won't recognize it."
Eric Andresen had to set up a post office box over the weekend to accommodate the number of people wanting to give his son their pins.
"We've been overwhelmed, especially with the overwhelming amount of positive support and the Eagles that have volunteered to turn in their medals, either back to [Boy Scouts of America] or to Ryan," he wrote in an email.
An alumnus of Ryan's hometown troop set up a Facebook page to invite others to pledge their pins and plan a gathering to honor the disavowed Scout.
"One's Eagle Ceremony is the crowning affirmation of all those great experiences, lessons, values, and friendships," Matthew Kimball wrote on the Facebook page. "It haunts me that my friends, people I've loved, admired, and respected, people that have been my greatest mentors, would deny Ryan this affirming experience."
Kimball, a third-generation Eagle, wrote that he meant no disrespect toward the Scouts and isn't trying to challenge the private organization's right to determine its criteria for membership and awards.
"But I do feel that it does its own self both harm and disrespect when it puts its principles, even were they to be unquestionably sound, before actual people, actual human beings—in this case, a young man who has undoubtedly endured an incredible amount of difficulty in reconciling who he is with a group of friends and mentors whom he admires and for whom he has striven for over a decade to emulate and make proud," he posted on Facebook.
Ryan Andresen has been a Scout for 12 years. (Andresen family)
Under Scout rules, Eagle candidates must meet the requirements by their 18th birthday. Ryan, a Scout since he was 6, recently finished an extensive service project and the needed paperwork but hasn't been able to get his troop leader's approval. He turned 18 on Monday. The rules do provide for a 90-day window after a Scout's 18th birthday, but Ryan's father said the family has not heard from the troop leader.
"It hurts a lot," Eric Andresen wrote. "Ryan should have received an apology from the scoutmaster by now."
Ryan's scoutmaster has not returned messages from Yahoo News.
In addition to not meeting the group's membership standard on sexual orientation, a national spokesman for the Scouts said, Ryan also disagreed with the BSA's religious principles.
Eric Andresen objected to that portrayal.
"Ryan has never said anything about being atheist to anyone, because he's not," his father wrote. "Ryan has labeled himself as agnostic and continues to believe in a supreme being—he just hasn't figured out what form that is or how he wants to recognize it."
Officials with Change.org, an Internet social change platform, said the rapid response to Ryan's petition is one of the biggest they've seen in the site's four years.
"It's clear from this petition that many people around the country see the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy as widely out of touch and this denial of Ryan's Eagle award particularly troubling," said Change.org's Mark Anthony Dingbaum.
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